PHILADELPHIA — Student and community groups will rally outside President-elect Joe Biden’s Philadelphia headquarters Monday to demand he cancel all federal student debt on his first day in office.

Organizers of the rally say Philadelphia was instrumental in securing Biden’s victory at the polls.

Now, after months of unemployment brought on by the pandemic, many have to choose between paying their debts or keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Lauren Horner, community organizer for the PA Debt Collective, said cancelling student debt would relieve some of the burden on people who have gone months without paychecks. 

“Philly residents have much higher debt loads – an average of over $37,000 – than many graduates in other major cities, especially our Black and Brown borrowers,” Horner explained.

Biden backed legislation that would cancel the first $10,000 of federal student loan debt, but has not supported a Democratic resolution urging him to eliminate more.

That resolution, proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would cancel up to $50,000 of student debt per borrower.

But Horner insists that still wouldn’t be enough.

“To cancel all of the debt would be a much bigger and bolder statement,” Horner maintained. “And it would keep $11.6 billion in the pockets of over 300,000 Philadelphia residents, in particular.”

Nationally, 45 million Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion on student loans. 

Biden calls it “questionable” whether he’ll have the executive power to cancel even $50,000 of student loan debt.

But Horner pointed out Congress gave that authority to the Secretary of Education, a presidential appointee, decades ago.

“Basically, with a sign of a pen, the $1.5 trillion of federal student loans can be cancelled,” confirmed. “So, we’re simply demanding that Biden use this power that he already possesses to push this forward.”

She added student debt is one factor contributing to the racial wealth gap, and cancelling it would help reduce wealth inequality.

Andrea Sears

p.s. Are student loans an issue in Chester?